Stocks sink as Trump trade flips into reverse

Posted at 4:09 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-27 16:09:00-04

After falling sharply in the morning, U.S. stock indexes clawed back and were down only modestly in afternoon trading. A run higher for hospital stocks helped to stem losses for banks and other financial stocks.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 2 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,342 as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 46 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,550. The Nasdaq composite rose 14 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,843.

AFTERNOON COMEBACK: Indexes had been down much more sharply early Monday on worries that the Trump White House may not be able to help businesses as much as once thought. The S&P 500 had been down as much as 0.9 percent.

Last week's failure by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, something they've been pledging to do for years, raised doubts that Washington can push through promises they made to help businesses. Investors have been anticipating that President Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress will cut income taxes, loosen regulations for companies and institute other corporate-friendly policies.

Those could still happen, but even if they don't, the stock market still has several pillars of support, said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management.

"Trump lucked out when he got elected president, because it was just as earnings were coming out of a two-year slumber," he said. "I think it's been as much, if not more, about earnings as it's been him" behind the 9.3 percent rise for the S&P 500 since Election Day.

An improving economy is translating into higher earnings for businesses, which are set to report their first-quarter results in the coming weeks. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, also is moving slowly in raising interest rates, which should help to support the economy.

DOLLAR DOLDRUMS: The dollar fell against most of its major rivals, including the Japanese yen, euro and British pound. The ICE U.S. Dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency's value against six others, has given up most of its big gains since Election Day.

The dollar fell to 110.59 Japanese yen from 110.80 late Friday. The euro rose to $1.0866 from $1.0808, and the British pound rose to $1.2567 from $1.2500.

YIELDS DROP: The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.37 percent from 2.41 percent late Friday. It was above 2.60 percent just a couple weeks ago.

BANKS SINK: Bank stocks have tracked the movements of Treasury yields recently, because higher interest rates would allow them to charge more for loans and reap bigger profits. Investors also expected financial companies to be some of the biggest beneficiaries of easier regulations with a Republican-led White House.

Financial stocks in the S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent, one of the largest losses among the 11 sectors that make up the index. Morgan Stanley fell $1.01, or 2.4 percent, to $41.45, and Capital One Financial lost $1.81, or 2.2 percent, to $81.99.

HEALTHY GAINS: Hospital stocks were among the strongest performers. The Republican health care plan would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade, according to a tally by the Congressional Budget Office. And hospitals take care of patients, whether they're insured or not.

HCA Holdings jumped $4.26, or 5 percent, to $90.30 for the biggest gain in the S&P 500.

ANXIETY GAUGE: The VIX index measures the market's nervousness by looking at how much traders are paying to protect against upcoming drops in the S&P 500. Early Monday, the VIX jumped as much as 16.6 percent and was close to its highest level since mid-November. It calmed through the day and was up just 1.4 percent by the afternoon.

GOLD GLITTERS: The price of gold rose $7.20 to settle at $1,255.70 an ounce. Silver rose 36 cents to $18.11 per ounce. Copper was close to flat at $2.63 per pound.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 24 cents to settle at $47.73 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 5 cents to $50.57 a barrel.

Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.05 per 1,000 cubic feet, wholesale gasoline rose a penny to $1.62 per gallon and heating oil was close to flat at $1.50 per gallon.

MARKETS ABROAD: Stocks were weak around the world. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index dropped 1.4 percent, South Korea's Kospi index lost 0.6 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.7 percent. In Europe, the German DAX lost 0.6 percent, the French CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent and the FTSE 100 in London dropped 0.6 percent.